Prisoner Blinded by Cellmate Can’t Carry Civil Rights Case Towards Feds – Courthouse Information Service

An 11th district committee ruled that a prisoner who was blinded by his cellmate in a scissor attack cannot sue the government for violating his 8th Amendment rights.

(AP Photo / Bebeto Matthews, File)

ATLANTA (CN) – A Florida prisoner cannot sue the government for violating his civil rights after his cellmate stabbed him in the eye with scissors while he was sleeping, District 11 ruled late Wednesday.

In a 23-page majority opinion, a panel of the Atlanta appeals court ruled 2-1 to reject Mackie Shivers’ attempt to overturn the district court’s dismissal of his lawsuit.

Shivers, a Florida federal prison inmate serving a life sentence for drug possession, sued the federal government and five prison workers under the Federal Tort Claims Act after his cellmate Marvin Dodson attacked him in 2015.

Dodson stabbed Shivers in his right eye with scissors while he was sleeping and blinded him permanently.

Shivers claimed that prison officials knew, or should have known, that Dodson was mentally ill and had assaulted his cellmates in the past. He claimed he told the guards that Dodson was acting erratically in the days leading up to the stabbing, but they took no action.

In an April 2017 ruling, Senior District Judge William Terrell Hodges found that Shiver’s Eighth Amendment to be free from cruel and unusual punishments had not been violated.

The inmate appealed to the 11th District, which heard arguments in the case in April 2020.

In a statement released on Wednesday evening, the panel confirmed Hodges ‘finding that the government has immunity from Shivers’ claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act’s discretionary exemption.

In a letter on behalf of the majority, Bill Clinton-appointed Senior US Circuit Judge Frank Hull stated that “detainee grading and apartment placement decisions are clearly subject to the FTCA’s discretion.”

“Shivs is making no reference to any federal law, ordinance, or policy that specifically prescribes a course of action that prison workers here have not followed,” the statement said.

Hull was supported by the majority of US circuit judge Barbara Lagoa, who was appointed by Donald Trump. U.S. District Judge Charles Wilson, a Clinton-appointed judge, partially agreed.

The majority also noted that Shivers had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies against the prison workers.

However, the panel was divided on whether a prison officer’s decision to place prisoners is protected by the statutory exception if a prisoner says the decision is contrary to the constitution.

In a separate nine-page statement, which was partially dissenting, Wilson disagreed with the majority’s decision as to whether the discretionary exemption protects a government employee involved in unconstitutional conduct from liability under the FTCA.

Wilson opposed the majority finding that the law precludes a prisoner’s claim based on government abuse of discretion, “even unconstitutional abuse”.

“By violating the Constitution, a government official necessarily leaves his permissible discretion – and thus the protection of the discretionary exception. Accordingly, I would join most of our sister groups who have reached this issue and believe that the discretionary exemption does not protect the government from FTCA liability for unconstitutional conduct, ”Wilson wrote.

Wilson said he would overturn Hodges ‘dismissal of Shivers’ FTCA claim and refer the case back to determine whether Shivers plausibly alleged violation of the Eighth Amendment.

When asked for comment Thursday, Fritz Spainhour, a Shivers attorney, said he and his client are “considering our options to seek further review of this decision.”

“We respectfully disagree with the opinion of the panel majority that government officials are free to violate the constitutional rights of Americans,” said Spainhour. “Most circles addressing this issue have decided otherwise, as Judge Wilson stated in his thoughtful disagreement.”

Like this:

To like Loading…

Comments are closed.